Why does this team sometimes have the most trouble scoring runs? I don't think this team is particularly constructed badly on the offensive end, and the guys who spent April absolutely slumping - Khris Davis, Yonder Alonso - are starting to come out of it. So why does it feel like every hit is an achievement, every run like pulling teeth?
Struggles with runners in scoring position are an easy scapegoat that gets brought up for every team, every year. I really don't think any team drives in RISP particularly better or worse, it's just an easy excuse when a team loses frustrating games.
But, you know, it feels like the A's are worse at it than other teams.
The A's had plenty of chances to score today, and only came away with one run. Doug Fister was good, but he wasn't that good. The A's loaded the bases in the second inning, but failed to score. Jed Lowrie got to third base in the third inning, but failed to score. They managed to get one run in the seventh on a Marcus Semien RBI single, but they should've gotten more out of the rally. 2016 Doug Fister has no business pitching 6.2 innings of one-run ball.
That said, it's not like the A's were grounding out over and over. They did spray line drives all over the field. It's just they hit them right at Astros outfielders. Nothing you can really do about that.
Rich Hill was fine, and he really did enough to get a win. Despite a very unkind strike zone, the unlikely ace managed to go six innings with only two runs allowed. He (only) struck out four, and matched that with four walks and a HBP. After Jose Altuve's leadoff HR, he was definitely effective, if shaky.
He was helped a great deal by the defense, which was simply fantastic today. Marcus Semien continued his defensive renaissance - first by ranging deep into CF to catch a popup in the first inning, and then by an incredible sliding stop on a groundball up the middle in the sixth. Khris Davis made a stunning catch in left field in the fourth - dude can't throw, but he sure is rangey.
Hill wasn't the dominant force we saw last time, but he wasn't the guy who went 1.2 innings on opening day either. This was probably the average Rich Hill, the guy we should expect - six quality innings with a few too many walks. Of course, he'll pepper in a couple of 8 IP 0 ER 13 K starts, just to keep you on your toes. Rich Hill is fun.
The bullpen was nails, but that's not exactly remarkable at this point in the season. Liam Hendriks started his road to redemption by pitching a scoreless inning, Fernando Rodriguez had a cleanish 8th inning (plus one out in the ninth), and Marc Rzepczynski finished it off. This is old news: the bullpen is really good. Literally every member of the bullpen is really good (even Liam Hendriks! I swear!).
The A's came away with the series victory, and that's what counts. It would've been nice to see them sweep the Astros and really put them away, but the series victory is the important thing. Also, the division is ridiculously mediocre, so it's not like we need to sweep much of anything.